When six-year-old Rosie stepped up to the microphone, it struck a chord with Kim Wheatley.
Ms. Wheatley, an Anishinaabe Grandmother, had just finished sharing Indigenous stories with dozens of Aurora residents on Saturday morning during “Walking the Road of Reconciliation through Indigenous Storytelling.”
Hosted by Ms. Wheatley, from the Shawnaga First Nations Reserve who carries the spirit name of Leader of the Fireflower, and the Town of Aurora, two sessions were held at Town Park on August 14 to share, listen and learn.
As a member of the Turtle Clan, many of Ms. Wheatley’s powerful stories had water as a binding thread and, after an hour of stories and song, residents were invited to step up and ask questions.
Young Rosie’s age resonated with Ms. Wheatley as it was not far off from the age of many of the children taken from their homes to residential schools.
As the true extent of the residential school system comes closer and closer to the forefront with the continuing discovery of remains belonging to hundreds upon hundreds of children in unmarked graves on grounds associated with the schools, Ms. Wheatley urged the assembled crowd to take a step forward towards action.
“When you look at that sweet little girl, it is hard not to have your heart moved in some way,” she said, before issuing a challenge. “An encouragement to do your part, to become aware, to have conversations at the dinner table within your circle of friends. Do not let this die down. Do not subscribe to the news fatigue. We need your help. The road to Reconciliation is a long road. As Justice Murray Sinclair spoke about, it was education that got us where we are and it is probably education that is going to get us where we need to be. I don’t know if I am going to see that in my lifetime, but I am going to be an optimist, cross my fingers, and hope I can see some sort of change.”
In hosting events like the two sessions held this past weekend, Ms. Wheatley said the Town is “Walking that road of reconciliation.”
“Walking the road to reconciliation is a hard job and it requires a partnership,” she continued, noting the orange shirt she wore in solidarity with Every Child Matters. “It is not just my work and I don’t feel it is our people’s work as whole nations across the country; I do feel that Canadians as a whole need to get over their guilt and get on with some meaningful action to help us heal, help repatriate those children in a meaningful way. All those bodies need to be identified [and] restored to their families. Mass dumping of children’s bodies is a horror. I am not going to sugar-coat that at all. We all have some common sense about how to address that.
“What do you do when there are dead children? Dig in your heart, find out what you should do. You have Google to help you and there are lots of organizations that have posted lots of different ways to help, but this orange shirt is to honour those children and I am glad that I had a chance to speak about this before everybody took off in a hurry.”
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran